Mayor Eric Adams on Tuesday said that the city will add more than 350 new homeless shelter beds by the end of this week as part of his administration’s planned 500-bed expansion to address street homelessness.
The rollout comes as the city ramps up controversial efforts to physically remove homeless encampments seen across the city, a move that advocacy groups have scorned. Over the weekend, Adams pledged to target 150 encampments over a two-week period, raising questions from advocates about whether the city has sufficient bed capacity for those sleeping on the streets.
On Monday, some individuals who were forced to leave their encampments under the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway said they were uncertain where they would go. Adams said the city would deliver further details on Wednesday about how many of those living in encampments were placed in shelters.
The new beds are in safe haven and stabilization shelters, officials said. Both are low-restriction facilities, although safe havens typically provide a wider range of services, including mental health and substance abuse. Many who have stayed at shelters have said they prefer safe havens — which often provide private rooms — over congregate or group shelters.
Kate Smart, a mayoral spokesperson, said that not all of the available beds are in private rooms.
New York City has roughly 48,000 individuals living in shelters, well below the peak during the pandemic, but still around 7,000 more than a decade ago, records showed.
Speaking at a ribbon-cutting for the Morris Avenue safe haven site in the Bronx, Adams said he was seeking to rectify years of government dysfunction that have allowed people to live on the streets and subways. The New York Post recently reported on a survey showing that the city had 2,500 vacant apartments specifically designated for those who are experiencing homelessness.
“Sometimes I feel like this is a comedy show,” the mayor said. “But it's so serious that you can't laugh at this dysfunctionality and this betrayal of New Yorkers.”
“This is an indicator of what is possible,” he added, referring to the new 80-bed Bronx shelter.
In a statement, Jacquelyn Simone of the Coalition for the Homeless praised the mayor for adding more shelter beds, but criticized the removal of encampments, calling policing and sweeps “harmful, counterproductive strategies that can actually push unsheltered homeless people further away from services.”
The mayor said he made unannounced visits to five shelters, one in each of the city’s boroughs, to observe conditions. Homeless New Yorkers, he said, deserved a “better product.”
At the same time, Adams has been sympathetic to quality of life concerns that pro-business advocates said have hindered the city’s transition to a post-pandemic “normal.”
A recent poll commissioned by the influential business group Partnership For New York City found that 94% of New Yorkers said that not enough was being done to address mental illness and homelessness.
The mayor has also recently ordered the police to crack down on a range of infractions, from sleeping in the subway to fare evasion.
At an unrelated press conference earlier in the day, Adams addressed his administration's efforts to combat crime, saying that targeting fare evasion was one key way to identify criminals riding the subway.
“There's a way to get on the subway system if you don't have enough money to pay your fare,” he said. “We've created an environment in our subway system where rules don't matter. I don't subscribe to that.”
Homeless and criminal justice reform advocates have accused the mayor of moving the city back to the era of “broken windows” policing, or targeting low-level offenses as a way to combat more serious crime. Adams shook off the criticism, saying, “Call me what you want. We’re gonna be safe.”
The mayor, a proud vegan, then likened his policies to edible green plants.
“I’m like broccoli,” he said. “You're gonna hate me now, but you're gonna love me later.”